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Solve Puzzles for Science - FoldIt: An Online Protein Folding Game

09 May, 2008 - 2 min read

David Baker is one of my favorite scientists. His group performs the best at CASP. He started the Rosetta protein folding and design software and Rosetta@HOME a distributed computing network to run it. And now he’s behind one of the coolest projects I’ve ever seen. Fold.it is an amazing community-based game where players can compete by folding proteins in a graphical point and click manner. Fold.it has a beautiful UI and molecular graphics not unlike the ones you’ve come to expect from VMD, PyMOL, and UCSF Chimera. Most importantly, this highly addictive puzzle game has real scientific value. Each time you solve a folding puzzle, the software sends your results back to FoldIt. With that data they hope to gain insight into the powerful human capacity to recognize patterns and apply that to new protein structure prediction methods. Players can create and join groups to compete against other players for high-scores.

After playing FoldIt for about an hour the game is actually very fun and addicting! Any game with actions like “Shake Sidechains” and “Wiggle Backbone” is guaranteed to make any bioche/biophysicist smile. While it may compete with GTA4, this game is a huge step in educating students in protein structure. It’s truly brilliant. Thanks to Andrew Perry for pointing this out.

FoldIt – Crowdsourcing to solve the protein folding problem